Research groups

The Society’s research activities

Researching the rich history of St Albans and its environs is a popular activity among Society members. By transcribing, collating and publishing important primary sources, they also create a resource of enduring value for other researchers and historians.

Current research project groups

Transition project - the impact on St Albans of the move from Catholicism to Protestantism

Our project to study how the town of St Albans moved from the control of the abbot to self-government at the hands of local inhabitants is now over 18 months old, write Jon Mein and Ailsa Herbert. We continue to make good progress in answering our key research questions.

For example, we can throw new light on the religious environment of the 1530s, and about how the town acquired the 1553 charter. We can also add important new information to the published story of the establishment of St Albans School. We have also found fascinating documents such as Thomas Vaughan’s probate inventory with its description of the exquisite contents of his wife’s wardrobe.

At the time of writing we are just starting the third and final phase of our research. We’ll be considering the effects on the Abbey’s dissolution on the town’s economy and property market as well as changing attitudes to religious adherence and the poor. With a fair wind our findings should be published as early as 2025.

St Julian’s estate – from leper hospital to housing estate

This group comprises members with differing but particular interests in the old St Julian’s estate.

The St Julian’s estate was centred on Watling Street, almost opposite St Bartholomew’s Church in St Stephens parish. At around 400 acres, it stretched down to the Abbey station on the one side and as far as Greenwood Park in Chiswell Green on the other. Originally a leper hospital attached to the abbey, it became a gentleman’s estate with a magnificent mansion house. Later it reverted to the status of a tenant farm for a wealthy family based at the Frythe in Welwyn.

The Group is still collecting data about the estate and the surrounding parish of St Stephen’s and has already provided articles and talks about various aspects of the area to local groups. It is working towards two possible books – one on the estate in its heyday with mansion and home farm and with gentle folk as owners or tenants and the other on its existence as a tenanted farm in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Other articles for more learned journals or websites are also planned. A recent development has been contact with a researcher into the life and antiquarian collections of Charles Willes Wilshere who inherited the farm in the late 1800s and gave land for a school for the parish on Watford Road and invested in buildings on the estate. This provides a dimension we had not hitherto expected.

Input from other members with appropriate skills or interest is most welcome. Local knowledge and skills in transcription, research and writing up are particularly needed. Contact Kate Morris on if interested.

Previous research project groups

17th Century Research Group

This group, formed in the early 1990s, has already completed a number of research projects related to the urban history of St Albans between 1650 and 1700. 

The team is finalising arrangements for the publication of the second volume of St Albans Wills, Inventories and Probate Accounts. This covers the years 1616 to 1629.  Committee.

Property Research Group

A Property Research Group was formed in the 1990s and produced a series of databases on which information is recorded concerning architecture and occupancies of plots in St Peters parish in the Borough over time. Much information was gathered for the nineteenth century and earlier which is available to researchers.

Individual projects using the databases and other information which has been gathered and recorded elsewhere have resulted in papers on Bowgate & its Inns, Snatchup Alley, Building and Destruction of Adelaide Street, Almshouses & Early Vernacular Housing in St Peter’s Street, and others.

First World War Home Front Research Group

Starting in February 2013, the twenty-one members in the group spent many hours considering the effect of the First World War on the social and economic development of St Albans. A further eight members prepared for analysis a transcription of the 1911 census for the local area, a significant piece of work in its own right.

Few if any people in the city were unaffected by the war. The longer it went on, the worse their conditions became. By answering questions such as the following, our objective was to tell what was then a largely an untold story.

  • How did the locals cope with having over 7000 soldiers billeted in and around the city from the autumn of 1914?
  • Who had a ‘good’ war?
  • How were unenlisted men and conscientious objectors treated?
  • In what ways did the city commemorate the war, both during and after it?
  • What was the impact of the 1918 influenza epidemic?

During the research phase of the project, updates were provided not only to Society members but to others throughout the area using local newspapers and radio as well as this website and other Internet-based methods. A sell-out 1914/15 conference, held in September 2014, was the highlight of the project at that point.

The Home Front section of the website's Social History category reports some of the Group's findings. The Group's work also led to to the publication of a book, St Albans: Life on the Home Front, 1914-1918, in September 2016. Copies of this are available through the bookshop